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Tropical storm Beryl gives South hurricane prep test

Tropical storm Beryl dumped much needed rain in the South, and caused some power outages. Jacksonville, Fla. officials say Beryl was a 'dry run' for the hurricane season which starts Friday.

By Russ BynumAssociated Press / May 29, 2012

A crew from the Florida Department of Transportation work to clean up the debris of a tree that fell in Gainesville, Fla., in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Beryl on Monday, May 28, 2012. Beryl came ashore early Monday near Jacksonville Beach with winds of 70 mph.

AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Brad McClenny

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Savannah, Ga.

With the official start of hurricane season coming Friday, US officials are reviewing their disaster plans — especially since a tropical storm already swept ashore this week.

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While Tropical Storm Beryl left little damage after making landfall with 70 mph winds around midnight Sunday at Jacksonville, Fla., it gave the city the chance to put its natural disaster plans to the test.

"You can call it a dry run, but we were prepared," Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said.

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The city will assess the damage before deciding how much federal and state aid to seek, Brown said. About 20,000 customers remained without electricity in the city Monday evening.

Although the Atlantic's six-month storm season officially begins Friday, the season got off to an early start with Tropical Storm Alberto forming earlier in the month off the coast of South Carolina.

Then Beryl swept ashore. Beach trips, backyard barbecues and graveside Memorial Day observances got a good soaking in southeastern Georgia and northern Florida.

Jacksonville, because of its location on an inward curve in the Florida coast, rarely takes a direct hit from a tropical storm or hurricane.

"I hope this is not a sign of things to come," said US Sen. Bill Nelson. "It's quite unusual, if you look at the history of the tracks of hurricanes, that you would have one come straight into Jacksonville from the Atlantic. ... Normally the hurricanes are forming out in the Atlantic and as they come toward the coast of the United States, the Gulfstream has a tendency to turn them north."

By early Tuesday, Beryl, which had weakened to a tropical depression, had maximum sustained winds near 30 mph (45 kph). It was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of Valdosta, Ga., and was moving north near 2 mph (4 kph).

The rainfall stopped in Savannah, Ga., and other northern parts of the Georgia coast Monday afternoon, but more was expected through Tuesday. A frontal system moving south from the Great Lakes is expected to cause the storm do a U-turn and push it back out to sea.

Beryl was expected to bring up to 10 inches of rain to parts of northern Florida to southeastern North Carolina, with some areas getting as much as a foot and a half, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Monday night. Forecasters said Beryl is expected to produce up to six inches of rain in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina.

Joyce Connolly and her daughters left their home in Hurricane, W.Va., to head south for a Memorial Day beach vacation — and ended up in the center of Tropical Storm Beryl.

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